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Health Journalism 2020: Freelance Pitchfest

Friday, May 1, 1:40-3:50 p.m.

Gideon Gil, a managing editor at Stat, listens to a pitch during the 2018 Freelance Pitchfest.
Gideon Gil, a managing editor at Stat, listens to a pitch during the 2018 Freelance Pitchfest. (Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ)

Important dates

March 18, 10 a.m. CT
Online sign-up period begins, allowing at most three appointments.

April 17, 10 a.m. CT
Max. allowed appointments increases to five. Additional editor time slots become available.

April 26, noon CT
Sign-up period ends.

Attention independent journalists!

Editors from some of the top magazines and newspapers are coming to the conference to meet you! Bring your best ideas to the AHCJ Freelance PitchFest. This session has been created to give you an opportunity to sit down and discuss your ideas one-on-one with editors from selected publications.

To participate, you will sign up for time with the editors and come prepared to sell your work. That means you need to arrive with specific pitches for the editors, as well as clips, resume, business cards, etc. We have provided information below about what each editor is looking for, so please use that to your advantage. Do not show up with just a business card to hand out. Do your homework on each editor.

Get strategies to succeed: 

AHCJ webcast

We strongly recommend watching "Packaging the perfect pitch," a webcast with two top editors and an experienced freelancer that will help you prepare for the PitchFest.

Please note: PitchFest FAQ

You will be asked to confirm that you have read and agree to the terms outlined in this FAQ. Please take the time to read through it ahead of time and be sure to contact us with any questions.


  • You must be an AHCJ member, in the "professional" category and be registered for the conference to sign up for PitchFest appointments. AHCJ reserves the right to cancel appointments of anyone who is not qualified.

  • Each appointment is for seven minutes.

  • You may sign up for THREE appointments during the first sign-up period (see "Important dates" above). During the second sign-up period this limit increases by TWO additional appointments, allowing at most FIVE in total. Two additional time slots for each editor will become available during the second sign-up period.

  • You will NOT be able to change appointments after the sign-up period ends. You may add appointments if slots remain available but you may NOT change an existing appointment. So please take a look at the conference agenda to see if a panel you want to attend conflicts with the appointment time before you sign up.

  • You may sign up for only one appointment for each editor and your selections are not final until you receive a confirmation from AHCJ in the days leading up to the conference.

  • When you sign up, you will have the opportunity to share the URL of your website, LinkedIn profile or another page, as well as a brief bio. That information will be available to the editors.

Five Simple Rules for PitchFest Etiquette:

  1. Show up. If you fail to show up for any of your appointments, you will not be allowed to sign up in advance for next year’s PitchFest. Additionally, be aware that the booked editor will have your name, potentially harming your reputation with that publication for years to come.

  2. Prepare carefully. We've posted blurbs from editors describing what they want so read those to customize your pitch to what each editor wants. For example, news editors won't want to hear a pitch for a feature. Study the publication to make certain your pitch is a good fit.

  3. Arrive in plenty of time. We will run on time and we will run like clockwork. If you are late, you forfeit your pitch.

  4. Respect the time limit. When you hear the one-minute warning, start to wrap up. When you hear time called, please get up, thank the editor and tell him or her that you will follow up with an email.

  5. Understand the limits. Please recognize that attending PitchFest does not guarantee you a sale. It does guarantee you an opportunity to pitch face-to-face to editors who are extremely difficult to access, even by email.

» How to make appointments

A link to sign up will appear on this page when the sign-up period begins (see "Important dates" above).

Participating editors

Here are the editors that have agreed to participate.

Kathleen Fifield, Healthy Living editor, AARP

We seek engaging, well-reported health stories and features on topics of interest to the over-50 reader. AARP's web site regularly covers areas such as brain and heart health, diabetes, and cancer, as well as a growing number of wellness topics, including healthy eating and fitness. A great story for us goes beyond a first-day headline to both explain a highly relevant health issue to our readers as well as to offer actionable service that they can use in their own lives. It may also employ our over-50 lens to look at a familiar health topic in a different way, carefully parsing relevant research, reporting, or advice for our readers. We also occasionally run longer features that break down more cutting-edge or dramatic health topics in a readable way, or that offer patient or doctor perspectives in narrative form. We're not opposed to shorter stories that hinge on new research, though our staff writers often cover major research news for us in daily stories. Overall, the best stories for us flesh out a health topic from a fresh, newsy, or zeitgeisty angle — with a little inspiration to live more healthfully artfully included.


Betsy Agnvall, editor, Staying Sharp (AARP)

Staying Sharp is a program that provides evidence-based information and actions you can take to maintain and improve your brain health as you age. It's a relatively new platform for AARP that is free to AARP members and charges a small feel for a brain health assessment. Articles and activities are aimed at readers 45 and older who are interested in keeping their brain sharp as they age.

This is a platform for people who do not have memory problems or Alzheimer's disease, but who want to harness the latest solid scientific research to keep their memory sharp and thinking focused. The articles are divided into six pillars of brain health: diet, exercise, sleep, stress, socialization, brain engagement. Each story connects current research to one of the pillars. Articles do not have to be based on a single study. Some -- such as "Why do I get a brain freeze" -- are interesting pieces about how the brain functions. Listacles are also popular, such as "7 Foods That Cause Brain Fog." We also have word activities that are similar to how-to sidebars, as well as brain health challenges.

Articles average 650 words; plus, head/deck suggestion, pull-quote idea, link to a study and fact check material. They should ideally include two sources -- more for longer articles -- and at least one study cited. Activities are around 300 words. Pay is $1 per word.

The tone of these articles should be conversational, engaging and quotable. We want people to go out to a party, picnic or book club and say, "Hey, did you know that?" Your job is to make that easy for them to do. They should apply to readers' lives.

Most of the content is behind an AARP membership wall, but you can find out more about the platform here.


Marci Landsmann, senior editor, Cancer Today

Cancer Today, which is an online resource and quarterly magazine, publishes stories about issues that affect people who are affected by cancer. Stories include profiles of people who have cancer who are giving back and educating others, analysis of new treatment approaches (e.g., immunotherapy, blood biopsies and CAR-T cell therapies); practical concerns (i.e., online privacy concerns, financial toxicity), new research developments (e.g., making sense of a new study or number of studies), and lifestyle pieces. We are looking for passionate writers who can translate complex scientific information into easy to understand information, and who can craft engaging stories that speak to patients' day-to-day and larger concerns. We generally start new writers on smaller (800 word) pieces, but welcome all ideas. We are looking for web articles and magazine articles. Our best guide is the website: Click on the current issue tab for departments.

(Pay varies based on assignment. Generally $1/word for magazine features, $300 for reported web pieces.)

Tod Jones, managing editor, Costco Wholesale/Costco Connection

Please display knowledge of and familiarity with the magazine. Please don't pitch ideas that we've run within the last 2-3 years. Please make pitches that have a connection to Costco (health products and or services), e.g., vision health (Costco has optical centers); gut issues (Costco sells probiotics), etc.. Our articles are general information, with solid substantiation. We don't cover cutting-edge topics or health remedies that have not been amply verified. Ask for guidelines and special sections calendar before pitching ideas.


Alex Orlando, assistant editor, Discover Magazine

Discover is a national consumer science magazine that covers all kinds of scientific fields. Stories should involve research in any discipline that is new, rigorous and suitable for narrative treatment. Pitches for feature stories should tell us what is important and new about the science and how you would approach the story. They should also include your ideas for additional content (i.e. sidebars, galleries, multimedia) that can accompany the story. Pitches for columns should be focused on one of the following subject areas: behavioral science, health and medicine, novel earth and environmental science, history of science (that also circles back to today), anthropology/archaeology and science from the far reaches of the cosmos.

($1 to $2/word)

Robert Lott, deputy editor, Health Affairs

In addition to peer-reviewed health policy research, Health Affairs publishes feature-length freelance, journalist-written articles about timely topics in health policy. Some pieces align with upcoming theme issues. Some pieces are part of "Leading To Health" our ongoing series on health system transformation.

( /- $1.5 per word)

Elizabeth Shaw, editor-in-chief,

HealthCentral is dedicated to helping people with chronic illnesses live their best lives. We're always looking for compelling personal stories (essays and/or profiles); in-depth condition-specific reports; and fresh takes on nut-and-bolts service. Getting diagnosed with a lifelong illness can be scary and overwhelming. HealthCentral is there to walk readers through that fear so they can focus on finding--and celebrating--their new normal.

(Starts at $400)

Lexie Verdon, senior editor, Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is looking for news-focused features from around the country that delve into health care from the perspective of the consumer. We do not cover clinical medicine and don't usually write about research developments. We try to illuminate for lay readers how the health care system works -- or doesn't -- and look for compelling stories that aren't being covered elsewhere. We have tended to concentrate on issues such as access to care, insurance problems, cost of treatment, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, although we're always interested in other aspects of health policy that may be far removed from a hospital setting or doctor's office. We also love a good health tale well told. In addition to our California and D.C. offices, we have new bureaus in the Midwest and Mountain regions so we're especially are looking for coverage told from those areas that would be of interest to a national audience. Our articles generally run about 800 to 1,200 words. Typically, we ask freelancers to pitch us via email with a couple of graphs about the focus of the story, the expected nut graph and the breadth of sources you plan to interview.


Christine Wiebe, senior director, features, Medscape

We are looking for enterprising reporters who know how to craft an engaging narrative. Our audience is medical professionals, with an emphasis on physicians. Some of our most popular feature topics last year included antibiotic choice, health benefits of tea, vitamins and supplements, and practice trends.

(Pay varies by project.)

Deborah Flapan, news director, Medscape

Medscape iMedscape provides editorially independent, accurate, balanced, and timely news on major advances across most medical specialties. We assign stories based on journal studies, conference presentations, and breaking regulatory/healthcare policy news. Deadlines can range from same day to a few days. In addition, we are interested in data-driven and/or narrative features examining previously unexplored areas of medicine. Pitch us unique stories that no one else has that also ideally have some kind of big reveal. Writers should be able to write in a variety of medical specialties, and can research a topic and conduct interviews to provide the clinical context and perspective that is a cornerstone of our news coverage. For Pitchfest, please bring a CV and relevant hard copy clips of your work or urls on your CV.


Edie Grossfield, editor, health and caregiving, Next Avenue

Next Avenue is a national, public media news and information website dedicated to serving people 50 and older. Our readers, most of whom are in their 50s and 60s, look to our Health and Caregiving sections for the latest information and insights regarding issues pertinent to this demographic. For the Health section, this includes overall health and well-being, fitness, mental health and the medical issues and diseases most associated with aging. For the Caregiving section, this includes long-term care decisions, end-of-life planning and care, caregiver support and resources, housing and assisted living and social services. I¿m looking for fresh ideas within all of these categories. Please explain why your pitch is a good fit for Next Avenue¿s audience, and please do a quick search on our website to determine whether we¿ve already had a story just like it. Please also explain why you are the writer we should hire for the story and why the story is timely.


Candice Clark, assistant editor, Rural Health Quarterly

Rural Health Quarterly (RHQ) is a national rural health news magazine published by the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. RHQ explores all issues related to rural health care. The readership for RHQ includes rural health care providers, researchers, educators and policy makers. RHQ accepts freelance pitches for stories of any length that cover timely and relevant rural health topics. RHQ stories should help readers understand the complex and often unique health care challenges faced by rural America. Stories about innovative programs and rural health success stories are also welcome.

(Pay varies.)

Cori Vanchieri, features editor, Science News

Science News is looking for feature pitches on the science behind the medical news. Stories that help science-interested readers understand where medical research is heading. We are also really into stories in chemistry, math and physics. Medical research in space! Last year, most pitches I received were about babies and children. Need broader options this year. Profiles of researchers doing fascinating stuff are welcome!

($1.25 /word)

Ingrid Wickelgren, Spectrum

I edit long form features, and we are looking for narratives. We are also looking for unique angles on autism. Before pitching, please scan our previous deep dives to avoid repeating previous topics. Plays off news stories are fair game, as are new angles or updates on topics covered in previous deep dives (as long as they are not niche topics). Please lead your pitch with the narrative and follow with your thesis and an outline of major points, including some of the people you plan to interview.



Coordinator: Jeanne Erdmann, independent journalist